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Huntsville’s Weatherly Heights Church builds prayer labyrinthcomment (0)

September 2, 2004

By Mary Jo Deaver

“There is a quiet place far from the rapid pace where God can soothe my troubled mind.
Sheltered by tree and flower, there in my quiet hour with him my cares are left behind.”
—Ralph Carmichael

Tucked into a wooded corner of the church grounds at Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, Huntsville, is a refuge — a special place for prayer, a labyrinth. 
Christian labyrinths are rooted in 1,500 years of tradition. They are prayer paths where those seeking communion with God may find peace, solutions for problems and God’s will for their lives. 
“The experience is as individual as each person who walks the paths,” said Howard Williams, minister of spiritual formation for Weatherly Heights.
Those who choose to walk the labyrinth pass through the entrance, which turns into a circular path that wraps around itself, eventually leading to the center where a tall tree stands. There, worshipers can mentally and spiritually leave their burdens before retracing their steps to the entrance, changed for having walked and talked with God.
“The labyrinth gives the individual the opportunity to meet with God as if on a symbolic journey,” Williams explained. “We enter the labyrinth with our burdens and leave with a resolve to share Christ and to act on what God has revealed to us on the walk.”
Williams proposed the idea of building a labyrinth to Jan Johnson, chair of the committee responsible for the education and spiritual formation of adults at Weatherly Heights. He had observed the effectiveness of the circular “prayer path” with other denominations and with Baptists in other states.
Williams noted he read in the Baptist Standard, the state Baptist newspaper in Texas, that new missionaries used a labyrinth path as part of their commissioning service. 
Susan Cox, a church member who recently celebrated the baptism of her daughter into the Weatherly fellowship, said, “I take pride in our church in that we try to  bridge the gap between the church and the community and to destroy the walls that separate us.”
The labyrinth is an unconventional outreach to community members who are encouraged to walk it during daylight hours. Brochures at the entrance provide instructions for those who chose to take the walk and if they desire spiritual direction, they need only request it from Williams and the church ministerial staff.
Weatherly Heights pastor David Freeman said in a recent Sunday sermon that this is a wonderful time for the church as it grows toward innovative ways of reaching people for Christ with the focus remaining on that which is “changeless.”
“The church is attempting to take what was happening then (during Bible times) and integrating it into what’s happening now,” he said.”It’s OK to change as long as it doesn’t change the purpose of our foundation through the gospel of Christ.”
The concept of a prayer path at Weatherly Heights, though innovative as Baptist worship is typically perceived, is a first for north Alabama Baptists. As those who walk the labyrinth emerge, renewed through the experience, the words of the hymnest again speak:
“... then from that quiet place I go prepared to face a new day with love for all mankind.”
—Ralph Carmichael

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